US Airways and American Airlines have merged since the publication of this post so it is no longer valid.
The punctuation in this post’s title is different than in previous posts on the subject of tacking free oneways onto awards. In the last week, I’ve shown how to add free oneways to your United, Delta, and American awards. The process and generosity of the free oneways has varied, but all three of the other legacy airlines allowed some form of a free oneway to be tacked on to their awards.
As you’ll recall, we add a free oneway by combining an open jaw and a stopover. Example:
EWR-LAX <— free oneway
The free oneway from Newark to Los Angeles at the end is the product of a stopover in Newark, this flyer’s home airport, and an open jaw–the award begins in Newark but ends in Los Angeles. Both are necessary for a free oneway at a later date.
US Airways awards allow one stopover or one open jaw. We need one stopover and one open jaw to construct a free oneway, so according to the rules of the US Airways program, free oneways are impossible.
That should be the end of the story, but from my experience with my Award Booking Service, I know that US Airways representatives are among the most incompetent in the industry. Generally if you’re polite, and you have already researched flights to find availability, they are happy to route you however you ask.
I knew I would have to call up to attempt to book a free oneway on US Airways since at usairways.com, you can only search and book roundtrips with no open jaws or stopovers. I also knew that US Airways only allows stopovers at Star Alliance hubs. Here is a list of Star Alliance hubs in North America:
US Airways- Charlotte, Philadelphia, Phoenix
United- Chicago-O’Hare, Cleveland, Denver, Houston-Intercontinental, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, Washington-Dulles
Air Canada- Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver
If you don’t live in one of those cities, you can’t have a stopover on a US Air award at your home airport, so you can’t use a free oneway on US Air awards from your home airport.
With all this in mind, I set about to see if US Airways would let me add a free oneway to its awards. The first experiment was a roundtrip Philadelphia to Rome with a free oneway Philadelphia to Honolulu added to the end. I found low level coach award space on all flights and called US Airways at 800-622-1015.
I’ll try to recount what I said verbatim in case you want to do something similar. When the computer voice asked for the details of my award trip, I said one passenger PHL to FCO (Rome) on the dates of the Rome flights, March 26 and April 3. When the agent answered, I said, “Hi, I want to book the award on your screen in coach; I have the flights in mind.” She found availability on the dates, commenting, “Wow, this was easy.”
I replied. “I searched for availability in advance to make it easier. We’re almost done. I just want to add two more flights. On April 10, United flight 345 from PHL to ORD at 7:30 AM.” She found it. “And I want to add United flight 300 at 10:05 AM from ORD to HNL.” She found that.
“Great thanks so much. How many miles and dollars is this award?” She informed me that it was 60,000 miles and $104 including US Airways’ $50 fee for awards to Europe. It had priced with a free oneway, which means I had been allowed a stopover and an open jaw on the same itinerary. Here’s what it looked like at usairways.com when I looked up the confirmation code she gave me:
As you can see, the award is properly reserved with a roundtrip from Philly to Rome, followed by a later oneway to Honolulu. Unfortunately the website was not showing the price, but the agent was going to charge me 60,000 Dividend Miles and $104.
What’s the takeaway from this reservation? It’s not definitive proof that it is possible to get an agent to book a free oneway, since I did not ticket the reservation, and perhaps she would have noticed that my routing had both an open jaw and a stopover.
But I think it shows that many agents will allow a free oneway via allowing both a stopover and an open jaw. To increase your chances of that, I think it’s important to be polite, to have already found the award space you want to book, and not to use terms like stopover and open jaw that might remind the agent to check the routing rules. Just say things like, “Great, now I’d like to add US Air flight 123 on day XYZ.”
Maybe my first try was a fluke, so I tried again. This time I tested a United hub, Los Angeles, on a flight to Asia. I had the same results. I was able to reserve Los Angeles to Tokyo (Narita), Tokyo to Los Angeles, then Los Angeles to Tampa (free oneway) at a later date. The agent informed me the itinerary cost 60,000 miles and $107. Again the free oneway was allowed.
I’ve highlighted the unknown cabin. Maybe usairways.com doesn’t know, but I do know that X is United’s code for a coach award. Again the price didn’t display online, but the price the agent quoted meant that LA to Tampa was a free oneway.
After my second successful attempt, I retired from attempting to book free oneways on US Air awards a perfect two for two. I don’t want to knowingly break the rules, so I won’t book any free oneways on US Air awards for myself or the clients of my award booking service.
But if you want to book a free oneway on a US Air award, and you live at a Star Alliance hub, it certainly seems possible given the right agent. And both agents with whom I talked were the right agent. I guess it’s phone-agent roulette except that you can respin the wheel by hanging up, so you can’t lose.